Within its 30 years of existence la strada Fahrzeugbau GmbH has developed from a family business to a European-wide acting batch production.
„The entire finishing of the van shows an excellent manufacturing quality. (…) Nothing rattles, nothing squeaks. It stays, it works, it fits.“ Extract from a renowned German trade magazine about the first test of a la strada motorhome in spring 1987.
The construction of the VW T3 of la strada already offered the quality that is the RVs manufacturer’s main character today: high-grade materials and premium assembly. About 6 months earlier in summer 1986, Otto Baumgartner and his son Joachim founded the company Baumgartner Reisemobile GmbH. 5 years of experience in selling and renting RVs as well as in manufacturing vans with prefabricated kits made them imagine their own construction company. The first models under the brand name la strada were exhibited during the trade show Touristika in Frankfurt in November 1986 and were quite well sold. The young company was confirmed in its decision to build their own models and produced 20 vans with 4 employees in its first year of existence. The special brand name is closely linked to its owner’s passion for Italy yet, it implicated some marketing difficulties. Clients not knowing the company well, lumped together the vehicles of the Hessian company with cheap quality products from Southern Europe - an unsuitable comparison for the quality conscious German manufacturer. But experiencing the product convinced the clients from the quality « Made in Germany ».
Experienced a lot
3 of the original employees of 1986 still work for la strada today, among them the actual associate and production manager Andreas Dalchow. In 1986, he started at the Schöneck-Büdesheim site as motor mechanic responsible for the automobile aspects of the la strada constructions. At the beginning of the 90ies the company employed already 25 staff members and built about 200 vehicles per year. But the market downturn in 1993 brought the company in troubles. It had just moved to Echzell, where it still produces today and had therefore made important investments. Hard times for several years began with the recession of the business market. The increased production capacities of 250 vehicles per year had to be completed and la strada gave it a try by introducing many models into the market. Some of them became the basis of further success, others had a short life time. With enormous efforts the company managed to stabilize itself when the bursting of the New Economy Bubble was followed by the slump of the German market. Shortly after the turn of the millennium the insolvency became unavoidable. Eugen Immler joined the company as investor and secured the brand‘s survival. He completed his enterprise’s portfolio in the branch. Owner of several trading firms, a German-wide RV rental company and a German motorhome manufacturer, he has already been one of the great businessmen of the branch before.
A few years later, it was clear that the ideas of the founder family and of the new owner were not compatible so that the Baumgartners left la strada. Eugen Immler was deployed as the new manager. He tightened the offer of models and introduced the ECE homologation which marked the beginning of an intensified export. The production hall which was enlarged and modernized in 2008 is one of the most recent construction sites of vans in Europe nowadays. In 2011, today’s associates Marco Lange and Andreas Dalchow took over the company from the owner by management-buyout. Under the brand name la strada Fahrzeugbau GmbH 325 motorhomes leave the factory premises of 14.000m² in Echzell every year. About 45 employees build 10 different models in 3 different series Avanti, Regent and Nova. Despite the eventful history the larger part of the staff has already been part of the company for many years already. The experience of such a rehearsed team secures the high-quality standard of today’s la strada vans.
Thanks to the European homologation according to the framework Directive 70/156/EWG all motorhomes built in Echzell can be registered throughout the European Union. For a manufacturer of this size it is a progressive and exceptional performance that led to a growing network of European dealers. About 30 dealers throughout Europe sell la strada motorhomes from Moscow to Brittany and from the Polar Circle to the Provence. 19 dealers service German la strada clients and even close to the Japanese capital Tokyo one can buy a van made by the Hessian manufacturer.
Still a lot of projects
La strada Fahrzeugbau GmbH is today a manufacturer specialized in compact motorhomes. The company occupies its position in the still growing market thanks to the high quality of the used materials and their premium assembly. Even the batch production a lot of process units are still carried out in meticulous handmade work. The quality of each single motorhome meets the high requirements of a manufactory. With all its models la strada is therefore a premium provider in its vehicle segment.
For the upcoming years la strada plans to continuously develop its European dealer network. Regional gaps shall be filled and markets in new countries shall be opened. The clearly defined model panoply will be adjusted to changed chassis of the known and used van brands and new models will complete the offer in a medium-term strat-egy. The la strada values such as compact sizes, premium materials and high-grade assembly are always the requirement’s focus.
Throughout its many years of existence la strada gained experience with almost all current vans. The first van conversion was built on the basis of a Volkswagen T3 in 1986. The models were named HD 60 and HD 85 and had a lot of success in the market. They were available with a nicely shaped Sirius high roof made out of glass-fibre reinforced plastics (GRP). From 1986 to 1990 la strada built 73 vans of these models. In 1989 they completed the panoply with the models Pronto and Primavera on a Ford Transit. Until 1995, 160 vans of this type left the factory. At the same time la strada sold the models Siena and Torino on a Mercedes MB 100 chassis. They became best-sellers with 480 units sold. In 1989 the 4x4 commitment of la strada started with a special version called Dolomiti on a VW T3 Syncro.
In the 90ies the company was pretty adventurous. Looking for new models and more units to sell to fully use the capacity of the new factory in Echzell, la strada started a real model attack. This gave birth to further best-sellers of the brand. The Avanti on Fiat Ducato is still today’s most sold model of the Hessian manufactory and is currently offered with 6 different floor plans. With the chassis change of Mercedes all MB 100 models disappeared in la strada’s catalogue. They were replaced by the models V3, V4 and Carat on a Mercedes Sprinter with long wheel base. The name Regent is still a synonym for la strada models on Mercedes Sprinter. In 1994 la strada even followed unusual paths in converting used MB 208 to the new la strada Magellan. It was sold for 42.800 German Marks, about 15.000 German Marks less than the cheapest new Mercedes van of la strada’s panoply. These models were followed by others on Citroën Berlingo, Ford Transit, Renault Master and Mercedes Vito, all of them quite successful in the market. More exotic were the la strada Due on a LDV Convoy (8 units built in 1997) and the la strada Kia Mobil on a Kia Pregio which was after all sold to 91 clients between 1999 and 2000.
During the 90ies the first bathrooms were integrated into the la strada vans. Introduced for the first time in 1990 in a MB 100 model, also the Avanti L came with a shower, cassette toilet and a basin. These features of comfort can, of course, be found in all la strada models today.
La strada ushered in a new era by launching the model Nova in 2000. For the first time in its history la strada left the classical compact van territory. At the same time the Nova provided a basis for the orientation towards the premium segment of the branch which is characteristic for all current la strada series. The most luxurious model of the brand is a Monocoque-cabin motorhome. An entire new living cabin is built onto a Mercedes Sprinter ladder frame chassis. In difference to other conventional semi-integrated motorhomes built from several parts, the la strada Nova comes with a complete living cabin made in one pour with glass fibre reinforced plastics. Openings, doors and windows are built into foreseen block outs and therefore offer an excellent isolation, high robustness and longevity. This complex construction method will not be found at other manufacturers in Germany. The years 2000 are marked by a new model policy due to a change of the management board. The large variety of models was reduced for demanded floor plans with a high-quality finish. The batches Avanti on Fiat Ducato and Regent and Nova on Mercedes Sprinter were completed by the Trento on Ford Transit and Fano on Renault Master until 2011.
With the chassis change of Ford and Renault the batches Trento and Fano were taken out of the catalogue in 2011. 10 different models in the 3 series Avanti, Regent and Nova are responsible for an increase of production units up to 325 vans per year during the last 5 years.